Regional District of the Central Okanagan supports North Westside governance study

The RDCO will write a letter of support for the community’s restructure planning grant application

The application for a governance study is going ahead for the North Westside.

During the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) board meeting on Thursday, July 9, the board of directors approved the request from the North Westside Communities Association.

The approval comes after a representative from the association, Callie Simpson, gave a presentation to the board on Monday, June 22, requesting that a second governance study be done.

She said the first study didn’t give the results the community was looking for.

“Our communities have been requesting a governance study since 2016. We did, in fact, receive funding for a detailed diagnostic review but somewhere along the line, that was changed to a services and issues review,” Simpson said.

Instead of showing if the North Westside can financially afford to be its own municipality or not, the services and issues review highlighted issues with communication between the community and the RDCO. It also showed community members didn’t feel that their interests were being represented by the regional district’s board or staff, which resulted in a lack of trust in the district.

Electoral area director Wayne Carson said the board’s support is great news.

“I’m extremely pleased. We’ve been working on this for four years and we’re just so pleased the board has chosen to support this. It looks like we got unanimous support, which is nice to see,” he said.

“Now hopefully, this study will answer the original question: is the North Westside financially capable of self-governance?”

Carson added the goal of the study is to educate community members so they can make informed decisions regarding the direction they want to take their community.

RDCO board chair Gail Given said the letter of support has been written and signed and once the letter is sent off to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, it is in the province’s hands.

“It’s in the ministry’s hands as to whether or not they think it’s valuable use of money. The number one thing the association wants is to understand what it would cost them to self-govern and if they’re getting their money’s value for the services they’re receiving now,” she said.

“They really want numbers… and it is my hope that the ministry will be able to provide them with some sense of the level of expense that creating your own community will have.”

Given added the communities association made it clear they are not looking for incorporation, so she and the board are a bit unclear on the path the community wants to take.

“I’m a bit unclear on what exactly what they’re looking for, but what they want now is numbers so they can determine for themselves their own outcome. I would hope that that comes about.”

The regional district board has also asked staff to include funds in the 2021 and 2022 financial plan for an independent consultant to assist the RDCO in implementing a communications strategy, which will follow up on the recommendations of the first study to improve communication between the regional district and the community.

The request for the governance study comes after the suspension of fire chief Jason Satterthwaite and Lt. Rob Gajda, with the cause of suspension still unknown.

READ: North Westside residents ask for study to determine if they should stay in regional district

READ: North Westside firefighters replaced after protesting suspension of chief, deputy

Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
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